The Fall of Los Angeles

For much of the 20th century, Los Angeles symbolised the future. Over the course of the century, the population grew 40-fold to nearly four million people.

But now, for the first time in its history, the population of Los Angeles is in decline, falling by 204,000 between July 2020 and July 2021. LA was once a magnet for investors. But recently many of the area’s corporate linchpins – including aerospace giant Northrop Grumman, Occidental Petroleum and Hilton Hotels – have left, taking with them high-paying jobs and philanthropic resources.

Worse still, conditions in LA today are bordering on the medieval. Anyone visiting some of the most famous districts of urban Los Angeles – notably downtown, Hollywood and Venice Beach – sees clear signs of destitution, including sprawling homeless encampments, vast numbers of people living in vehicles and rampant crime. Last year, a UN official compared conditions on LA’s Skid Row, a poor downtown neighbourhood, to those of Syrian refugee camps. Smash-and-grab thefts at local 7-Elevens and the persistent theft of goods from railyards suggest this is a city that has lost control to the modern version of lawless highwaymen.

So-called progressives have long dreamed of transforming the famously sprawled Los Angeles into a dense, transit-oriented, sun-kissed version of New York. But despite massive corporate and government investment, attempts to do this have failed. Rather than a vibrant hipster paradise, LA’s urban core is dominated by the homeless, the poor, government workers and a few creative types – making for an odd juxtaposition of homeless camps and low-rent hotels alongside high-end restaurants and artists’ lofts. Meanwhile, newly built luxury apartments have suffered vacancy rates as high as 14 per cent – remarkable in a city so short of housing.

Unsurprisingly, some Angelenos have sought to reverse this disastrous course. Earlier this year, disgruntled residents united around property developer Rick Caruso in his insurgent campaign to become mayor of Los Angeles. Caruso spent over $24million of his own money on the first round of the election in June.

Caruso is the grandson of Italian immigrants, whose father founded the successful LA business, Dollar Rent a Car. And he has himself been a big player in California for years. His real-estate business, founded in 1987, is now worth more than $4 billion. Caruso has built shopping centres all over the metropolitan area, from the iconic Farmer’s Market and middle-class San Fernando Valley to the swanky Pacific Palisades. Yet Caruso’s mayoral bid appears to have stalled against the well-organised might of the city’s public-employee-driven political machine.

This is a powerful machine. Last month, a grassroots movement opposing progressive criminal-justice reform lost its attempt to recall district attorney George Gascón, who has been widely blamed for LA’s lax approach to crime. Recall proponents needed 566,857 signatures, but despite collecting 715,000, only about 520,000 turned out to be valid. Thanks to the machine’s backing, Gascón’s recall bid failed, even though the city last year experienced 397 murders – up 11.8 per cent from the 355 the previous year, and a 53.9 per cent increase from the 258 in the pre-pandemic year of 2019.

Read the rest of this piece at Spiked.


Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Roger Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.

Photo: Basil D Soufi via Wikimedia under CC 3.0 License.

Class Homicide

There’s much talk today, from left and right, about threats to democracy, yet little focus on the social dynamic critical to its survival. In this respect, we may see the current, and troubling, escalation of violent political rhetoric, and even political violence, not so much as the cause of polarization but the result of changing class dynamics, most notably the increasingly perilous state of the yeoman middle class.

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There Are Dark Days Ahead for the Jewish Diaspora

Jews around the world, particularly outside the fortress of Israel, are threatened in a way not seen since the 1940s. A fundamentally unstable world, with rising class and racial animus, creates a perilous environment for history’s favourite target, as seen previously in such periods as the fall of Rome, the Crusades, the Black Death and the Great Depression of the 1930s.

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The Unexpected Future

We are entering an unanticipated reality—an era of slow population growth and, increasingly, demographic decline that will shape our future in profound and unpredictable ways. Globally, last year’s total population growth was the smallest in a half-century, and by 2050, some 61 countries are expected to see population declines while the world’s population is due to peak sometime later this century.

Slowing population growth creates an unexpected future

Chart credit: Our World In Data under CC 4.0 License.

This kind of long-term global demographic stagnation has not been seen since the Middle Ages. World population has been growing for centuries, but the last century has dwarfed previous rises. About 75 percent of the world’s population growth has occurred in the last hundred years, more than 50 percent since 1970. But now, population growth rates are dropping, especially in more developed nations, according to the United Nations (all subsequent references to UN research in this essay are drawn from these data).

It’s not a matter of if but when global populations will start to decline. Under the UN’s medium variant projection, the world’s population will peak in 2086, while under the low variant, the peak will occur in 2053, and by 2100, the population will be about a billion below today’s level. Demographer Wolfgang Lutz and colleagues project a global population of between 8.8 and 9.0 billion by 2050 falling to between 8.2 and 8.7 billion by 2100. The projected declines are concentrated in countries with high fertility rates, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. In the process, we will inhabit a rapidly aging planet. In 1970, the median world age was 21.5 years. By 2020, it had increased to 30.9 years, and the UN projects that it will be 41.9 years in 2100.

We are well past the time when we need to concern ourselves with Paul Ehrlich’s long-standing prophecy that humanity will “breed ourselves to extinction.” On the contrary, we need to worry about the potential ill-effects of depopulation, including a declining workforce, torpid economic growth, and brewing generational conflict between a generally prosperous older generation and their more hard-pressed successors. The preponderance of low fertility in wealthier countries also presages a growing conflict between the child-poor wealthy countries and the child-rich poor countries.

The shrinking of the rich world

Europe’s population shrank by 744,000 in 2020 and by 1.4 million last year—the largest fall on any continent since records began in 1950. Although worsened by the pandemic, this was largely an acceleration of a longstanding pattern. The EU’s population growth has been tapering for a generation, with fertility rates well below the 2.1 rate required to simply replace population The largest EU country, Germany, is forecast to drop five percent by 2050 while Italy is projected to lose 10 percent of its population. Overall, the 27-nation European Union projects that its population will drop from its 2022 figure of 447 million to 416 million by the century’s end.

European fertility has largely declined since the 1960s and the birth rate has slumped to “a 60-year low of 4 million births.” Compared to 1970, when 16.4 babies were born for every 1,000 persons, the crude birth rate dropped to 9.1 in 2020. Last year, the birth rate in England and Wales also hit a record low, with fertility rates for women under 30 at their lowest levels since records began in 1938. A fifth of all British women are childless by mid-life.

The lowest fertility rates are found in the countries of Eastern Europe, which have long been exporters of their shrinking youth populations. According to UN projections, Ukraine’s population will fall 18 percent from 2022 to 2050, even without accounting for the impact of the Russian invasion. Poland will be down 13 percent. Arch-rival Russia also faces inexorable depopulation: during 2019 (pre-pandemic), deaths were running about 50 percent higher than births there. With a 2022 population of 145 million, Russia is expected to drop to 133 million by 2050, according to the UN.

Plummeting fertility rates

Europe was the trailblazer of these new demographic trends but it is no longer an outlier. Over the past few decades, fertility has dropped precipitously in China, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Today, all are saddled with birth rates well below replacement rates. South Korea’s birth rates have fallen for so long that the country plans to reduce its armed services to about half their current size within 20 years.

Read the rest of this piece at Quillette.


Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Roger Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.

Wendell Cox is principal of Demographia, an international public policy firm located in the St. Louis metropolitan area. He is a founding senior fellow at the Urban Reform Institute, Houston, a Senior Fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy in Winnipeg and a member of the Advisory Board of the Center for Demographics and Policy at Chapman University in Orange, California. He has served as a visiting professor at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers in Paris. His principal interests are economics, poverty alleviation, demographics, urban policy and transport. He is co-author of the annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey and author of Demographia World Urban Areas.

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Statistics show that COVID accelerated economic, demographic, and geographic trends which were already existent, but rarely acknowledged. These trends include large-scale migration to the south, the west, and the suburbs. COVID also, as Ellmers suggests, sharpened the conflict between many Americans and the ruling “expert” class, who, unlike most Americans, actually flourished under COVID.

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